Easily the most ubiquitous bird around our little slice of paradise by the sea is the seagull. Not long after walking the beach regularly you’ll begin to notice slight differences among what you thought were probably one species of seagull. In fact there are dozens of species that call our beaches home most of the year, and even one endemic to the Sea of Cortez, the Yellow-footed Gull distinguishable by its white head, bright yellow beak with a red spot under the tip and bright yellow legs.
Although known by most in coastal cities more as pests than graceful, intelligent, skillful seabirds, the seagulls we come across along the beaches of Puerto Peñasco are primarily in the latter category, though not without their quirks and uniqueness among seabirds.
Here are just a few of those facts that make the seagull interesting among its winged peers:
- Seagulls are monogamous creatures that mate for life and rarely divorce. They have a strong societal structure that works very effectively against predators to their breeding colonies, as they will gang up on the intruder with up to a hundred gulls and drive them away, on occasion even driving them out to sea to drown.
- As parents, seagulls are attentive and caring, with both involved in incubating the eggs as well as feeding and protecting the chicks until they fledge.
- Seagulls are one of the few species of seabirds that can survive drinking salt water, enabling them to venture far out to sea in search of food when necessary. This is made possible by a special pair of glands just above the eyes that flush the salt from their system out through their nostrils.
- Seagulls have excellent vision, better than human vision in fact, and they are one of the few birds with eyes that can move in their sockets.
- Seagulls are expert fliers, having mastered control of wind and thermals, sharp directional changes, climbs and dives. They are a marvel to watch on windy days as they hover motionless using the wind and their superb vision to study the sea life below for potential prey.
- Seagulls’ intelligence is best demonstrated by their developed feeding methods, such as dropping clams or other hard-shelled mollusks onto hard rock surfaces to break them open. They also teach their young this maneuver and other creative methods of hunting, showing the intelligent ability to pass skills to others.
- Studies have shown seagulls to have a highly developed, complex communication system using a wide range of vocalizations and body movements.
- The seagull is the state bird of Utah with very good reason. They helped the Mormon settlers deal with a plague of crickets that well may have prevented them from settling Salt Lake City. The event is known as the “Miracle of the Gulls.”
- Seagulls, particularly the Heermann’s Gull, are relentless kleptomaniacs that have developed many clever ways of stealing the catch of other seabirds. You’ve surely seen it happening but may not have known what was actually going on. Ever notice that there are always a couple of seagulls hanging around the pelicans while they are hunting and plunging for food? These devious gulls know that the pelican must drain the water from its beak before it can swallow its catch. During that process the gull will go for any exposed part of the fish and take what it can get until the draining process is completed. Seagulls also use their flying skills to pluck fish from birds in flight, or use truly fascinating maneuvers to pester them until they drop the food which the gull will catch before it hits the water.
Seagulls are fun to watch and fun to study as a birdwatcher if you’re into that sort of thing. Once you’ve identified what you think are all the species around the beach, you’ll still find more around because they seem to cover most of the Sea of Cortez from end to end and drop in on each other from time to time. Well, who could resist stopping at one of our soft sandy beaches, after all? Enjoy!
For more information about seagulls you might visit:
or just Google “Seagulls in the Sea of Cortez”.
This blog is powered by www.sonoranresorts.mx, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales and Marketing.